Category Archives: Critique groups

When To Delete {Editing Tips}

 

editing

All I can say is: be ruthless when it comes to anything that’s — clunky (awkward), redundant, superfluous, extraneous, clichéd, telling, overdone…

When it comes to having a nice fluidity to your narrative you have to ensure you remove things that simply don’t need to be there, simple! Take them out and if it still works then you are on the right track. Some writers think they have to say it in unique and interesting ways. While, to some extent, that might be true it can, if you work too hard, really feel forced. Then it simply doesn’t work! I have seen some wonderful metaphors and similes lost in a crowd of metaphors and similes! The trick is to use such devices sparingly and in just the right place. This gives them power. Got it?

 

Here are just a few things to ponder… I will talk about filler and the things you can lose from the actual story tomorrow!

  • Description — this is important for allowing the reader to really ‘see inside the moment’, to visualise it as you intended them to, but they don’t need every single detail drawn in for them — just enough and perhaps more importantly to create the right mood, or tone, perhaps, even, to create the right sense of danger if you are leading them to the edge of a cliff face, for example. Sparing, yet vivid wins the day! So it really does come down to how you use your words and which ones. And if in a moment of great tension then whatever you do don’t stop to admire the view, make the description an active part of the movement itself. Look at how other writers do it!

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  • Look at things like attributions; the ‘he said/she said’ in dialogue. You will find that a lot of the time you can remove these as long as you can stay with the flow of the conversation. Better to show some body language so we know who said it. And don’t write  ‘they paused’ — create the pause with an action! None of us stop and pause, well not really! Lose adverbs that are redundant if we can see how something is done or said. Lose different words for said when said is just fine (I have talked about this before!) Punchy and sharp!

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  • Lose clichés as these are considered to be lazy prose! The tears streamed down the face… ugh! How about she dabbed her cheeks or some other more interesting way to show she was crying!

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  • Telling tags: These tell why something is done or said when it’s usually obvious! She stopped the man to ask the time because she was worried she was late. Telling! If we see her rush and ask the time as she rushes we can see it, it’s shown! See what I mean?

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  • Lose ‘that’ and ‘very’ and ‘just’: a lot of the time … see some of my deliberate crossings out. Also see the use of italics when I think the word is more functional so I left it in…  The way that he said it made her smile; he was just so angry (more active?); she was very jealous (though better to show this through actions… right?) Also think about some of the adverbs we overuse! Like ‘suddenly‘… So often there is no other way to interpret the action so lose it and just show the action!

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  • Pleonasms: nodding the headshrugging the shoulders; thinking in the mind… Where else? Get the idea?!!!

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The message here is very simple: if you can lose it, lose it. That way the writing becomes sharper! 🙂 Only repeat expressions or use words that are less functional in a sentence when part of character voice and there is a difference as I will show you later in the week!

Happy Tuesdaying!

5e3d161f9093134762cfbc96928654db--every-tuesday-good-morning-tuesday

 

 

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Be Consistent {Quick Copy Editing Notes 3}

We all know we need to be as consistent as possible in voice; if you’re using a teenage narrator  for example don’t suddenly start using words in her thoughts and dialogue she’d never use, make sure you are consistent for character. But that’s not what I mean here and I include it as its own set of Copy Editing points as consistency in formatting and more commonly how we use words and phrases is one of the most common things I see when I copy edit.

The rule is: BE CONSISTENT. Be pedantic as you proof something for submission.

When words or combinations of words have different spellings, hyphenation or indeed capitalisation then you need to be aware of the form you use and use it throughout.

Common examples:

OK and okay are the correct forms, not ok, and do not use them interchangeably.

Ice cream or ice-cream: either is fine but again be consistent.

Recognise or recognize. The use of the z is more American English, but since how we use words is not defined by specific unbreakable rules but by common usage, it is now acceptable to use either form, but be consistent and don’t switch between the two. If you’re going to use recognize then you need to use realize, actualize etc. so the consistency will need to be throughout the piece.

Capitals: my mum is correct. My Mum is not: use a capital when used in place of a name.

Proper Names and Proper Nouns: it’s the teacher (small letter — common noun) but the teacher’s name clearly uses a capital (proper noun) Mrs Jones but you might use names like Teacher Jones and assign it a proper name status and therefore use capitals.

Job titles, types of animals, compass directions strictly speaking do not need capitals:

He was a vicar (small letter) but his name as above, Reverend Peters would need capitals for his title.

He photographed the lion (small letter in lion) but sometimes people opt for a capital as a stylistic choice but if you do, then ALL animals need to be afforded the same status.

We headed south. He lived to the west. He loved north Wales.

This is a more tricky one because you can say we headed to the West and use it as a proper name, but again be consistent. And I always think if the place name includes its direction like North Korea then use capitals for the complete place name (proper name). I like North Wales although my publisher said it should be north Wales in my bio!

Also think about how you use capitals in places: Paddington Station: proper name uses capitals, not Paddington station.

Names of bands, places etc. need capital letters, and brand names: He worked for Microsoft. He played guitar for Bon Jovi.

Also with brands you have to make sure you check how they spell it and stick to that so: iPhone not IPhone or Iphone.

Also when you use film, TV, book titles, album titles, newspapers etc use italics and make sure you not only spell but use capitals as they are used on the correct title: the Sunday Times, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, EastEnders.

Some phrases are often hyphenated: for example she was a fifteen-year-old girl is correct. But she was only fifteen years old does not need hyphens.

Numbers tend to use hyphens, I prefer that form: twenty-one, thirty-three etc. Again it’s more about consistency but compound numbers generally ought to have hyphens! Look at your chapter headings and in your text: which form do you use? BE CONSISTENT!

When I used to copy edit for a publisher on paper I had to identify as I read any word or phrase I thought might have an alternative usage so when I came across it again I could check consistency. Same with colour of character’s eyes etc: it was time consuming as you would be amazed how often we get these things wrong. We all do! I am pedantic about it now but they still creep in!

Now that publisher tends to send everything electronically it’s a lot easier, Find and Replace is a valuable tool. I tend to be quite good at noticing but I highlight words to check as a final read and I either leave that for the writer to adjust or change them all to the most commonly used form — so long as they are all the same form!

Be aware as you edit!

Find and Replace!

Find and Replace!

That’s all for today! Have a great one! Feel the buzz!

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Seeking page-turnability …

One of the things I tell readers I work with is you decide when your reader pauses. You set the pacing.

Creating the kind of book that really grabs has always been one of my missions. There are so many stories and so many novels where I falter, am not as gripped as I ought to be and any excuse to put the book down, go make a coffee can lose your reader. But how do you keep those pages turning and stop that happening?

Clearly you need a good plot, one that keeps moving and this means not overloading it with filler. By this I mean too much back story, complicated sub-plots that do not tie into the main plot, extraneous detail. Readers will see through this and it will turn them off. So this means you have to really tighten your plot so it all feels credible and it moves the story onwards. Anything that can be removed without the main plot tumbling probably can be removed full stop.

It’s the function of the second BIG edit where you address issue sf plot, characters that don’t need to be there, filler etc.

And also think about narrative devices, teasers that end  chapters and have you read the next chapter right away!

The validation comes with the kinds of comments I am getting with reviews about like not being able to put the book down I say a big “PHEW” . You can get there, but you have to be brutal when you edit and tight with your plot and your devices.

Well that’s it for now, have a wonderful day. I am now trying to resolve some plot issues with the current novel… means a lot of note jotting and rocking in my chair … now there’s an image for you … complete with cats too! In fact I am feeling like a real writer! And what a wonderful way to spend the day!

Writer

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Keeping the dream alive … responding to criticism

I was reading an article this morning about how we receive and how we give feedback and criticism and it made me think.

As a writer I am no stranger to having my work picked over. Fortunately those who have, have always been encouraging even if there was plenty to address.

I also give feedback as part of my day job and I like to think I have developed a style that is encouraging and empowering, but at the same time, honest. It has to be.

What I did was look at what I want from a critique, honesty first and foremost, but no point in saying what’s wrong if you can’t offer a fix, an idea, a suggestion. This is where I think various things combine — me being a writer myself, the fact I work in publishing (albeit on a small scale) but I have worked with lots of stories and lots of writers to know what works, being a reader helps, and my MA alongside numerous other courses so I have a strong grasp of what works and what techniques to use to make things work better. And like you, I return to books and I read magazines and I make sure the advice I give is as solid as it can be.

I once had someone critique my work who just said things like — nah, boring, cut, don’t believe you — and no offer of why or how. I found it demoralising. And I vowed I would never do that or make someone feel that way.

Yes I have worked on manuscripts by very new writers that need a lot of work, but handled right, the comments and suggestions and advice make it clear they have a lot to learn, but a good teacher empowers and makes the student want to learn, and doesn’t demoralise or make them feel like giving up forever.

It helps I am, a ‘people’ person, or I like to think I am, so I approach the job with passion and enthusiasm and do go the extra mile for people. I love it when they tell me they can see the improvement and when they start to have success.  And since I have my publishing contacts, the various projects I am involved in, like CafeLit, I do offer ways to kick-start careers where I can and have suggested they submit to various collections.

Not everyone can teach, I like to think I have the balance right between honesty and encouragement. All I can say is it seems to work and we start the official first full week of work this year, I have a full board of jobs and lots are new clients, as well as familiar faces — so I look forward to what we can do together.

2014 is going to be a great year, come along and see!

Have a great week everyone!

1455061_614034055330223_967283944_nPs the kindle version is still 99p!

 

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Here we go … setting your writing goals

Yay it’s a shiny new year! Don’t spoil it!

I don’t know about you but I love the feel of a new year. I used to see it as a way to start over with new paper, clean diary, new goals but now I see it more as a restoration of the default setting and to make sure I am still on track.

Resolutions are usually broken within a couple of weeks so I prefer to think it terms of setting realistic goals and this can be at any time, but then pushing yourself to achieve. If you see it as a chore you will never succeed. If you  just keep making lists and moving the writing one down further, or pushing deadlines too much, the initial relief you feel will fade and you will still feel like a failure.

I am very driven anyway and I remember spending new year’s with  friend a few years ago and one of the first things I did in the new year was buy a copy of Writers & Artists Yearbook for that year and say — I have to stop getting rejected and I will do what it takes to find me an agent or publisher. At the time I think this was with the infamous Colourblind and I adopted a new approach by being more choosy in the agents I contacted. While I soon learned at the time my writing was not quite there, the agents who did look at it mostly asked to see the rest of it and it was certainly better than my send to all approach as a novice!

When I knew it wasn’t good enough I then set out new goals and took more courses and in my case studied for my MA too. I went back to short stories to learn the craft. I was determined and still am. But an important lesson I learned was that like evolution and indeed ecology, we must adapt to a changing landscape in order to move forward.

At this melancholy time of year we often look back. So look back at some of your earlier writing as this is a wonderful way to see how far you’ve come. We never stop learning.

So here’s some advice for those with manuscripts and the dream  that this will be the year, how much have you worked and reworked that MS? What has the feedback been like? Are you still trying to flog a — no I won’t say it, are you still trying with the same novel you wrote ages ago? There comes a time when you have to move forward with the next one, as I had to do with Colourblind. That isn’t the same as giving up, it’s learning, adapting, taking what you learned from each step and progressing and one day you will come back to that MS with fresh eyes and be able to do it justice. You will see why it was rejected.

I am a lover of lists and I live for the dream, but not just the realisation of it, the ride to get there which is why I say you should celebrate every success along the way, it’s all part of the journey. And we never stop learning.

For me as well as my having to keep telling people about my book (still 99p on Kindle it seems!) and planning the LA trip etc, I am now having to focus on getting the next one submitted and being prepared for rejection because it will come — but let’s hope this is the year I find me an agent.

We need goals, but just don’t set yourself ones that mean flying before you have learned to walk, the oh sod it, let’s just self-publish this anyway approach. You know what I mean, sending it out there when it’s not quite ready. It is a long ride, but if you want it you will get it.

And anyone who missed my Essex twang I was invited onto a Radio Show on New Year’s Eve. Funny as I follow a couple of Essex radio stations on Facebook and that morning it had asked for people to sum up their year in 5 words. I chose: My dream finally came true. And in a short follow-up said why. Apparently it was read out on BBC Radio Essex and I was picked up for the Mike Forrest Show that goes out to 39 local radio stations in the BBC! So that was a great way to end the year. Oh and when you listen, sorry George Clooney! I only meant he is too old to play Gary in the film (since Gary is in this 30s) I’m sure I could find a role for him and no way is he too old, oh George … fine!

Mike Forrest Show 31/12/2013

(about 23 mins in)

Welcome to 2014! 

Come fly with me!

NYE

PS if anyone wants to contribute a piece to CafeLit here is the link: CL

Bridge House are now open for short story submissions: BH

And if you want me to start up Fiction Clinic on the last Friday of the month, I am seeking 500 words that need a little online TLC. |Email them to me

Oh and I have revised my prices on novels and novella work finally on my website but there is still an introductory discount for new clients

Tomorrow I will share a link for a little guest blog post I did!

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Glowing in the Limelight

A little later than usual this morning as got up and got on — lots done early, mainly house cleaning!

But here I am. I’ve had a crazy few busy days since I came back but three big crits successfully delivered and can now just write today and look forward to my visit from Lee’s parents and my trip back to Essex tomorrow. I have other work lined up too so will get to that before Christmas but nice to relax a little and do what I love the most — WRITE!

I will keep this post short and sweet and leave you with the link from my interview in Glow Magazine!

GLOW

Enjoy!

Keep on LIVING THE DREAM GUYS!

Keep on LIVING THE DREAM GUYS!

 

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The Writer’s Journey

I have talked before about the importance for me of belonging to a writing group. I joined the Bangor Cellar Writing Group in April 2007 and somehow found myself in the chair in October of the same year (and for the next three years — now Vice Chair!). The time I joined the group was a difficult time for me, still coming to terms with losing Lee, BUT it opened up the world I so needed to be part of. It amazes me that since then I have had twenty stories published, won three competitions, been short-listed in many more and this week sees the launch of my debut novel! I am quite astounded! 

But this isn’t meant to brag, writing is a long and sometimes tough process, so I want to say that it proves with hard work and determination you can get there. Really. And so it will for those out there with the same dream and prepared to put in the hard work.

My writing group became a whole lot more than advice, ideas and inspiration — for me it is more about the personal support. It’s about the people who have been there for me and continue to be there for me and who I owe so much. They taught me above all that this journey we are all on, one that involves many hours spent alone at a computer, really doesn’t have to be an isolating one.

Tomorrow we have a showcase at the Bangor Museum, the very place I had my first ever book launch and where I dedicated my first ever reading to Lee — my story Jigsaw that was published in the Making Changes collection by Bridge House. The Showcase evening this week will allow members of the group to share poetry, short stories and novel extracts to the family and friends of group members and we hope some of the public too! I will give another reading from the book, might rehearse one I haven’t done yet as some of the same people were at the launch. And I have a few copies of the book to sign as well!  Other writers will also be signing  published work.

So five years to the week, after dedicating that first reading to Lee, I now launch my first novel, also dedicated to Lee. It feels right somehow.

So this journey has a circular feel and some of the bumps in the road are gone — but now I feel ready to pull out of the centripetal loop to take on what comes next. I can hear Lydia’s voice in my head as I think that — “You a big ol’ Catherine Wheel, girl, whizzing up a storm.”

I hope the book leaves a trail of fireworks.

Now is that odd time when I wait to see how it’s received and what kind of reviews I get. 

I was thinking about that last night when the first of my friends says she read the book this weekend. She said great things about it and asked me questions. She said she was really hooked. Phew.

But reviews are not like critiques.

I have learned to be really receptive to the kind of criticism a critique entails as it all feeds into the creative process of making your MS as good as it can be. Reviews, on the other hand, are criticism on a done deal. This book is finished and I can’t change anything. Some will love it, some will hate it — I just hope not too many are indifferent. Better to have an opinion than no opinion.

I think I need to learn how I will cope with bad reviews. Smile graciously I think is the only way because the very fact it was accepted and published shows someone loved it.

But let’s hope most of the people love it most of the time!

It’s a crazy journey — but a great one. Come along for the ride!

In the area? Come along!

In the area? Come along!

 

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